Despite the NBA’s best efforts this year to nerf load management, teams are still punting games from time to time. Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets were back deep for the return. Like a prime Tavon Austin (queue up Hell & Back by Kid Ink), they took it to the house and beat the Miami Heat by a 112-97 final score.
With Miami keeping Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson in street clothes tonight, you don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill with this win ... or is the reverse? Never mind. Not all wins against the Eastern Conference champs are created equal, despite them counting all the same in the standings.
But with the Nets coming off three straight loses and staring a back-to-back in the face, you’ll gladly take this victory. In getting there, here’s a few new things we learned about the team.
This Team is Corner Three Happy
It’s statistically the best shot in basketball, so Brooklyn deserves a round of applause from all basketball modernists now as a top five team in corner threes attempted so far this year. Tonight, they got back after it, launching 13 shots from that sweet spot and hitting seven times.
Cameron Johnson and Dorian Finney-Smith kept the party going all night. Each wing hit twice from the corner, collectively shooting 4-of-6 from there. Johnson also finished with an additional six makes to reel in 16 points on 7of-9 shooting, turning in one of his best outings so far this year.
Cam Johnson: LOCKED IN— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) November 25, 2023
12 Points | 2 Rebounds pic.twitter.com/l1OvFouKfN
This assault from the corner represents an encouraging turnaround for the Nets from last year. During the prior season, the Nets dwelled as a bottom-half team in attempts from there with 8.5 per game. This season, they’re averaging 10.6 per game and round out as a top five unit not only in attempts, but also in percentage on said shots.
The team’s improved spacing without Simmons and Claxton on the floor together lately, as well hot starts from guys like Finney-Smith (45.1% on 6.1 3PA), Royce O’Neale (37.2% on 5.7 3PA), Lonnie Walker IV (45.5% on 5.5 3PA) are largely responsible for this. Dinwiddie’s turned up aggression as a facilitator is fueling this fire as well.
Brooklyn did well inside the arc tonight as well. After a rim penetration drought that riddled the team’s offensive crops for weeks, they finally found a way to do damage inside especially during the second half. While the game was more or less over at that point, drive and kick actions resemble one of the simplest ways to generate looks from deep, so that’s something to build on.
The corner three needs to remain a shot for Brooklyn to look for. Aside from all the things advanced analytics will tell you, seven of the league’s top 10 team in threes attempted last year made the playoffs. With that being Brooklyn’s goal this year, it’s an important trend to keep alive.
Jacque Vaughn Not Afraid to Mix it up at Center
Let me start this by saying Nic Claxton’s job as the Brooklyn Nets starting center is more than safe. He remains one of the game’s top players at the position, even if the mainstream media wants to ignore his top-5 finishes last year in blocks, stocks, and field goal percentage.
Having said that, Jacque Vaughn’s shown little hesitance in pulling him for Day’Ron Sharpe if the matchup’s right over the past few games. Tonight’s contest vs the Miami Heat gave us our most indisputable evidence of that.
Barely over three minutes into tonight’s game, Vaughn subbed Claxton for Sharpe. It came as Sharpe’s earliest entry to a game all year. With Miami starting a slower but more physical big in Thomas Bryant, the chess move made sense. Then, when Miami took him out for the more versatile Kevin Love, Claxton consequentially returned.
The Nets followed this strategy beyond the first quarter as well. Claxton finished with 13 points, six rebounds, two steals, and three blocks while shooting 5-7 from the field. Sharpe tallied four points, four rebounds, and two rejections. Their matchups finished with a combined 10 points while shooting 4-9 from the field and with three turnovers.
It’s a coach’s job to make adjustments like that in-game, but in today’s league where players can be sensitive about starting, coming off the bench, minutes restrictions, etc., it’s pleasing to see Brooklyn able to mix and match their lineups without any concerns on that front. A subtle, but nice win for this team as they look to rebuild their “culture” this year.
Dinwiddie Finding a Home at the Charity Stripe
The more I’ve watched Spencer Dinwiddie this year, the more I’ve noted an intent on his end to draw fouls. “James Harden” is a trigger word for this fanbase, but this year, Dinwiddie’s frequently put the ball out in front on the drive and then used his strength to rise up in his defender’s grill and draw a whistle like the beard often does.
Dinwiddie ranks third on the Nets in fouls drawn this year behind Cam Thomas and Mikal Bridges with 3.4 per game. But if you pay attention, you’ll see his trips to the stripe more often than not come from sequences where he baits his defenders, opposed to Thomas and Bridges who force desperation fouls following their quick first steps.
Spence finished with 14 points and 11 assists while shooting 4-of-9 from the field and 4-of-4 from the stripe tonight. Yes, only four attempts, but prior to this game, he’d been the only Net to take five or more free throws in all of Brooklyn’s past five games.
Some improved officiating likely helps him increase that streak as well. By my eyes, league officials swallowed their whistles when they shouldn’t have on a number of occasions tonight. At one point, Dinwiddie even threw the ball up, got hit on the body (although no foul was called), and then re-caught the ball before hoisting it through the cylinder.
Level of difficulty: High pic.twitter.com/wtWYlO77cj— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) November 26, 2023
When another team foul baits, people on the other side are often quick to call it a detriment to the game. Be honest, you definitely did that the other night watching Brooklyn go up against Trae Young. But when your guy is doing it, it’s just smart and strategic basketball. So with Dinwiddie doing it here, I’ll lean on the positive side of things.
With the Nets being a team that likes to get out and run — and as a result can look lost from time to time without a transition opportunity served up to them — possessing a guy like Dinwiddie who can manufacture points this way could be huge as the season unfolds. Keep an eye out for how much he hunts shot attempts going forward as this offense continues to develop its identity.